The black audience in the USA has traditionally embraced larger-than-life characters and their accompanying schtick in their quest for entertainment. In the golden era of the 1950s and 60s, James Brown had his cape and you-can’t-make-me-leave routine, Solomon Burke his regal robes, Little Richard his pancaked flamboyance. When it came time for a Caucasian analogue, the R&B-infatuated Wayne Cochran knew what needed to be done to make his mark. Cochran’s platinum blonde “do” and outrageous image are well-remembered by those who witnessed them but, lest we forget, unlike today, back then an entertainer truly had to deliver. There is enough available footage of Cochran and his crack 12-piece C.C. Riders to prove he was a mesmerising performer, and for the best part of two decades he filled venues across America with a thrilling rhythm and blues showcase.
Cochran’s showmanship never translated into hit records, but his recordings for Mercury, Chess and King are compelling glimpses of the wild style that wowed audiences in the latter half of the 60s. “Goin’ Back To Miami” collects the choicest sides he cut in the R&B style. Disc One features prime cuts from his 1968 album for Chess, which was recorded in part at Fame in Muscle Shoals and saw him enter country soul territory with tracks such as Eddie Hinton’s ‘Big City Woman’. For the most part, he stuck with the bluesier material he understood best, although he flirted with psychedelic rock on a second album, for Starday-King in 1970. Overall, the set features a dozen studio tracks completely new to CD, including several unissued titles.
Despite his bizarre image, the sincerity of Cochran’s approach gained him the respect of his idols and mentors James Brown, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson, and the C.C. Riders were a smash at notoriously hard-sell venues such as the Apollo in New York. The unreleased “live” routine that makes up Disc Two, recorded in early 1969 at the height of Cochran and his band’s Vegas period, is a remarkable document. His downhome raps, patter and exhortations alone are worth the price of admission.
For two decades a minister, and now essentially retired from performing, Pastor Cochran granted a rare interview for the liner notes. In addition to his fascinating reminiscences, the package features dozens of eye-popping illustrations – including photos of the famous “do” getting worked on. “Goin’ Back To Miami” is the definitive anthology of this great entertainer’s golden era.
By Alec Palao